Do Less to Do More

Multitask or smoke pot. Which one makes you less productive?

As it turns out, multitasking creates a greater drop in IQ than smoking marijuana although the latter is not recommended.

According to a British study conducted by TNS Research and commissioned by Hewlett Packard, the IQs of those who tried to juggle messages and work at the same time fell an average of ten points compared to the four point IQ drop observed after smoking marijuana. (And sorry guys – the study also showed that men are worse at multitasking than their female colleagues, suffering a greater IQ point drop.)

Multitasking is the first thing to stop doing in order to get more done in your day. Pick a task and stick to it. Eliminate distractions; close the door. Send phone calls to voice mail and turn off your email indicator. Give the task your full concentration, and you’ll get it done better and faster.

5:00 o'clockDon’t Work Too Long

The next counterintuitive step to productivity improvement is to avoid working too long. Your brain uses more glucose than any other bodily activity. Typically, you exceed your fuel allotment after about an hour. Set a timer for 60 to 75 minutes and work with intense concentration; then take a break.

Use your break time to address the interruptions and messages you ignored while you weren’t multitasking. Take a quick walk. Eat a snack. Simply do something different to allow your brain to recharge. Add this break time into your day. If you plan to be productive for eight hours, accept that you’ll be at the office for ten.

Don’t Overuse Technology

Technology is always touted as a productivity enhancement, and it is… as long as it’s saving you time. Let your computer do to the basic tasks that it does better than you, but watch out for tasks that take more time with technology. Need to jot a quick reminder note? It’s faster to grab a pen and paper than to open a document, type, save and file.

Additionally, don’t allow “technophilia” to rule. Don’t be so enamored with it that you get caught up in its features rather than its benefits. Sure, word processing software lets you knock out that letter quickly and professionally, but do you need to spend ten minutes picking the font?

Sometimes old technology is the best solution. The telephone is a far better tool for a conversation than email.  Pick up the phone for a quick call, and you get a quicker and more accurate resolution to the question or problem.

Don’t Strive for Perfection

Of course you want results, but there’s a point of diminishing return on your efforts, and the return on the investment of your time diminishes the closer you get to perfection. In other words, doubling the amount of time you spend on a task probably only improves your results fractionally, not proportionately.

In many cases, “good” is good enough to garner the results you want. If no one notices (or is willing to pay for) your extra efforts, they’ve been wasted. A shoddy performance is always unacceptable, but too often a perfect one goes unnoticed. Use the time you would spend unnecessarily perfecting a project to tackle the next one on your list.

Don’t Fill Every Void in Your Day

You know that busyness and productivity are not the same. However, idleness and productivity are not mutually exclusive either. There’s a tendency to use every moment of down time – return calls while driving, check emails before you get out of bed in the morning, stay connected while you’re commuting, fill every void in your schedule.

By failing to allow some open space in your day, you deny yourself time for deeper thinking and problem-solving. Worry less about economizing every void and embrace a little unencumbered time to let your mind work on the bigger issues you face.

Don’t Avoid Mistakes

Finally, remember that every path to success is always paved with a few mistakes. Mistakes are great teachers, and their lessons always carry forward to new ventures and projects. Fear of mistakes leads to inaction, and inaction is the biggest productivity killer of all. When mistakes occur, evaluate them and move ahead knowing you’re smarter and can use what you learned to get more done tomorrow.

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